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How to Save Portland From Becoming the Next San Francisco

A local architect lays out a vision for a denser Portland—without a housing squeeze.
relates to How to Save Portland From Becoming the Next San Francisco
Wikimedia Commons/Ian Poellet/Werewombat

If the prognosticators are right, Portland, Oregon, will have 750,000 more residents by 2050. Twenty percent of those will push into the core of Portland where, according to local architect Rick Potestio, average density is somewhere between six to 10 units of housing per acre. This is dense, but not that dense: West Coast cities including San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Seattle have at least twice as many people per square mile. That other 80 percent, or 600,000 future Portlanders? They'll head for the suburbs, where there is—incongruously—actually more density, with 18 to 30 units per acre.

For urbanists, this backwards development with denser suburbs is a scary prospect. Potestio calls it "sprawl on steroids" in a piece published last week in the Portland Monthly. The good news is that the city itself is in the midst of a housing boom. A 2014 real estate report found that 5,200 residential units entered the market between late 2012 and 2013. Five thousand more were added by the end of 2014. The bad news? Potestio worries that this isn't the right kind of housing: